Who We Are?

CACMI is the state-wide coordinating agency for the 40 Children’s Advocacy Centers (CAC’s) across the state of Michigan. When law enforcement or child protective services believe a child may be experiencing abuse, the child is brought to the CAC—a safe, child-focused environment—by a caregiver or other “safe” adult. At the CAC, the child tells their story once to a trained interviewer who knows the right questions to ask in a way that does not retraumatize the child.

A team that includes medical professionals, law enforcement, mental health clinicians, prosecution, Child Protective Services, forensic interviewers, victim advocates, and other professionals make decisions together about how to help the child based on the interview. CACs offer therapy and medical exams, plus courtroom preparation, victim advocacy, case management, and other services. This multidisciplinary team (MDT), is a core part of the work of CACs do. Across the state, MDTs share a steadfast commitment to get children on the path to healing as soon as possible so they can get back to being kids.

Meet our Team

Melissa Werkman, President & CEO


Melissa comes to CACMI from her role as the President and CEO of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Kent County. She led a team of 24 staff and 12 on-site multi-disciplinary team members serving more than 1000 survivors of child sexual abuse a year. In her past leadership roles, she worked to advocate for individuals with Down syndrome, create more access to healthcare, and helped develop mentorship programs for women and girls. Her experience has provided her with a keen awareness of the challenges and isolation that faces leaders today and she is eager to bring that empathy and insight to support others. By cultivating deeply meaningful corporate and community partnerships, she has come to understand the exponential effect of creating mutually beneficial relationships that honor mission and impact organizational goals which in turns impacts the broader community.

Melissa is honored to assume the role supporting the critical work that CACs perform across Michigan every day by increasing access, growing capacity, cultivating sustainable funding and influencing policy that will best benefit all of Michigan’s children.

Josh Bissell, Program Director at Children's Advocacy Centers of Michigan.

Program Director

As the Program Director for the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Michigan (CACMI) team, Joshua is committed to providing support to CAC leaders and their staffs across the state. In addition to helping members prepare for accreditation and re-accreditation, his support ranges from on-site training to phone consultations, active troubleshooting of difficult dilemmas and planned delivery of content expertise and practical advice. His personal mission is to ensure that every CAC staff person has an opportunity for professional development and growth as experts in their field and to foster a collaborative network where even the smallest programs feel supported.

In a previous life, Joshua worked as a licensed social worker in the state of Louisiana developing a social services program embedded within the New Orleans Police Department Special Victims Section. He spent years working with the Child Abuse, Adult Sex Crimes, and Domestic Violence units and served as a forensic interviewer and case manager at the New Orleans Children’s Advocacy Center. He received undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Sociology and his master’s degree in social work at Tulane University. In his free time, he enjoys disc golfing and board games and likes to write short stories in the genre of science fiction and fantasy.

Amanda Davis-Scott, Director of Clinical Practice, Development, and Education at Children's Advocacy Centers of Michigan.

Director of Clinical Practice,
Development, and Education

As the Director of Clinical Practice, Development, and Education for CACMI, Amanda helps to support the clinical and victim advocacy operations of the Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) in Michigan. Amanda’s duties include but are not limited to providing clinical consultation, giving onboarding support for new victim advocates and clinicians at the CACs, operational support for established CACs and internship programs, development of training curriculum and materials based on the needs of and for the use at CACs, and development and facilitation of peer review/support programs for advocates and clinicians. Prior to working at CACMI Amanda was the Program Director at the Lenawee Child Advocacy Center and the Program Director at the Lenawee Child Trauma Assessment Center. Amanda holds a bachelor’s degree in family life education from Spring Arbor University, a Master’s degree in counseling also from Spring Arbor University, and a Master’s degree in criminal justice with a specialization in forensic psychology from Tiffin University. In her free time Amanda enjoys spending time with her husband James, and three children.

Steven King, Systems Administrator at Children's Advocacy Centers of Michigan.

Systems Administrator

Steven King is our Systems Administrator, playing a crucial role in ensuring the smooth operation of our internal systems and resources. With a strong focus on engagement, platform management, and logistical support, Steven’s responsibilities encompass a broad range of vital functions. He oversees our network’s engagement initiatives, the management of our platform systems and databases, and provides essential logistical planning and support for our conferences and events. Additionally, Steven plays a key role in ensuring compliance and maintaining quality assurance standards. He continuously monitors and innovates our internal systems and resources to ensure they effectively support CACMI’s operations. Steven also facilitates peer groups for Intake Coordinators and provides technical support to our members regarding data tracking and reporting. With a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master’s in Social Work, Clinical, from Michigan State University, Steven brings a solid educational foundation to his role. He is certified in Clinical Social Work with Families and holds a license as a Masters level Clinical Social Worker and Limited License in Marriage and Family Therapy. Outside of work, Steven enjoys running, reading, spending quality time with his family, and pursuing outdoor activities, such as rounds of disc golf.

Rebekah McDowell, Operations Director at Children's Advocacy Centers of Michigan

Operations Director

Rebekah McDowell has spent her entire career in nonprofits. After graduating from Central Michigan University, Beka worked in legal and education agencies before joining the Children’s Advocacy Center of Kent County. During her 16+ years at the Center, she worked in fund development and grant writing before becoming Operations Director where she led Human Resources, Finance, and Building Management for nearly ten years. A self-proclaimed “nonprofit policy wonk,” Beka obtained her HR Management certificate from Cornell University during the early days of the pandemic, while helping guide CAC Kent through remote work and safety policies and becoming the agency’s “COVID expert.” She enjoys the behind-the-scenes work of operations, providing a strong foundation for the Chapter and the CACMI team while also supporting CAC staff around the state as they engage in the essential work of creating safe and welcoming spaces for everyone who needs a CAC. Beka is honored to be a resource for CAC staff in human resources, finance-related best practice, state and federal grant writing and reporting, policy development, compliance, and DEIA.

Tom Stuessy, Director of Capacity and Resource Development at Children's Advocacy Centers of Michigan.

Director of Organizational Strategy

Tom Stuessy serves as the Director of Organizational Strategy. Having worked in nonprofit leadership for over ten years, Tom brings strong knowledge and experience in forging effective partnerships that lead to expanding capacity, resource and fund development. His approach centers on the opportunity nonprofits have to collaborate with for-profit partners to exponentially increase awareness and engagement. During Tom’s previous tenure as an executive director, these tools and strategies increased funding, drove membership, and participation among the business community, and led to organizational advancements such as websites, collateral investments, youth programs, internal grant programs, PSAs, partner referrals, subject matter expertise, and most importantly, more attention paid to important causes. Tom believes the CAC community has the opportunity to modernize partnership with the for-profit sector, producing engagement that will further mobilize the mission of every CAC.

Meet our Board

Alex is a professionally licensed counselor who received his Bachelor’s in Psychology and Masters in Counseling from Michigan State University in 2008 and 2010 respectively. He began his therapeutic career working with individuals in crisis and adults facing the challenges of co-occurring mental health concerns and substance use. In 2011, he began work as a therapist for the Small Talk Children’s Advocacy Center in Lansing, Michigan were he became the Executive Director in 2015 while maintaining a small case load of counseling clients. He is trained in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral therapy and specializes in working with children and adolescents who have been impacted by abuse and trauma. He is passionate about helping children heal and find their strength despite the trauma they have experienced. In 2019, Brace was appointed by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to serve with other professionals around the state on the Governor’s Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect. He serves as Vice-Chair of the Task Force and Chair of the Legislative Committee. He also serves on the Lansing School District Sex Education Advisory Board.

Melanie Richards is an experienced and passionate nonprofit leader who has dedicated her career to advocating for the rights and well-being of children. Melanie holds a Master’s degree in Social Work and for more than 25 years, she has been committed to helping children impacted by abuse and neglect heal, as well as advocating for meaningful systems change to hold offenders accountable and create safer, more child-centered communities.

Since 2011, Melanie has served as the Director of Kids-TALK Children’s Advocacy Center in Wayne County, Michigan. In her role as Director, she is responsible for ensuring the delivery of high quality, child-centered, trauma-informed interview, medical, advocacy, therapy, and outreach services to more than 2,000 children and their families each year. Melanie works with leadership teams from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Attorney General, and more than 40 different law enforcement agencies to ensure a coordinated community response to child maltreatment.

Melanie is committed to ensuring that the children of Wayne County have the same opportunities and supports as children in other large metropolitan areas in the United States. Melanie is passionate about collaborating with community partners to create a safer and more supportive environment for children and families to heal and thrive.

Allison joins us from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, where she serves as Director, HR Technology.  She is passionate about the intersection of people, process, and technology to deliver consumer-grade employee experiences in her work.  Allison also serves on Inforum’s TechnologyNEXT Steering Committee. 

Allison is honored to support the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Michigan as they serve children and adolescents in their greatest moments of need.  

Scott Dzurka has worked for over 30 years in Lansing associations and public policy consulting firms. He is the Principal of DZ Strategy Management, LLC and was previously Vice President at Public Sector Consultants. Over the course of his career, he’s worked to develop and enhance system solutions within local and state government systems and nonprofit structures. After leading advocacy efforts for both the Michigan Association of Counties and the Michigan Association of Community Mental Health, he spent 10 years as CEO of the Michigan Association of United Ways (MAUW) where he directed the organization’s capacity to build programs that support United Ways and develop public policy expertise across the network. He serves on a number of nonprofit and community organizations while also serving as Mayor of St. Johns, Michigan.

Claudnyse D. Holloman is a dedicated advocate for children’s well-being. She has a diverse background, having previously worked as a private practice attorney representing both children and adults in various capacities, including several non-profit organizations. Currently, she serves as the President & CEO of Voices for Children Advocacy Center, where her primary focus is on helping children and families who have been victims of child abuse, neglect, and human trafficking. Throughout her tenure, Claudnyse has actively worked to expand services and improve laws for child survivors, establishing Voices for Children Advocacy Center as a leading organization in the Mid-Michigan area.

Voices for Children Advocacy Center serves as a safe haven for children and families in Genesee and Shiawassee counties who have experienced child sexual abuse, severe physical abuse, neglect, exposure to violence, and human trafficking. Claudnyse has played a pivotal role in developing statewide and county protocols and policies aimed at assisting survivors of human trafficking and child abuse. Additionally, she has been instrumental in advocating for legislative changes to ensure more effective processes for child survivors. Claudnyse has provided testimony on child abuse and human trafficking issues with the Michigan House Judiciary and actively communicates with legislators and elected officials on national, state, and local levels.

With a firm belief in the potential of every child, Claudnyse’s mission is to convey, “I believe in you. I’m here for you. I will fight for you.” She staunchly supports the Children’s Advocacy Center movement and has successfully implemented the Handle with Care program in Genesee and Shiawassee Counties. In her role as the past chair of the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Michigan, Claudnyse advocated for funding and services for CACs, domestic violence and sexual assault centers. In partnership she spearheaded efforts to provide support for survivors of child abuse while championing the implementation of necessary laws. She also represents children and families in family court proceedings and offers guidance as an advisor and counsel to various pastors throughout Michigan.

Claudnyse currently serves as a Governor appointee on the Michigan Juvenile Justice Committee and participates in sub-groups within the Governor’s Taskforce on Abuse and Neglect. She also contributes to national committees alongside the National Children’s Alliance, Child Death Review, and Children’s Public Policy. Furthermore, she serves as a trustee for her church, Second Ebenezer Church (Detroit, MI), and as a site reviewer for the National Children’s Alliance.

Kim is a partner in the law firm Dickinson Wright PLLC.  Her legal practice focuses on healthcare, insurance and commercial transactions and disputes.  She first became active as a volunteer with Voices for Children Advocacy Center of Genesee and Shiawassee Counties, and was later elected to the Board of CACMI.  Kim received her bachelor’s degree from The University of Michigan and her law degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City.  Prior to law school, Kim worked in New York in a fundraising capacity for non-profit entities.

Jamie Rossow is the Executive Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Michigan.  She was hired into this position in 2009 following a 3-year role on the CACs Board of Directors.  She received her bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a master’s in health system management from Rush University in Chicago. 

Jamie grew up in Southwest Michigan and, after spending 12 years in Chicago, returned to the area to raise their 3 children.  She lives in Baroda with her husband Peter, 2 dogs and 2 ducks (a pandemic purchase by her daughter).  In her down time, she enjoys skiing, biking, reading, and frequent family time.

Virginia Lambert serves at the Houghton Keweenaw Child Advocacy Center, both as the Director and a Forensic Interviewer.  She is a Copper Country Native and lives with her husband, four children and three rescue sheep.  Graduating from Michigan Technological University with her undergrad, she found herself wanting to get back into working with the non-profit sector.  This led her to obtaining her Masters in Public Administration from Northern Michigan University and starting her work with Dial Help, Inc.  We opened our CAC doors in September of 2020.

Sarah has over 10 years of experience working with children and families in the education and child welfare field as a teacher, home visitor, and parent educator. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a focus in Human Development. Sarah is trained in forensic interviewing through the Prosecuting Attorney’s Association of Michigan. She is passionate about the impact the Child Advocacy Center has on the community. Sarah is also the founder of Canines for Comfort, a 501(c)(3) non-profit assistance dog program that serves the center. Sarah enjoys caring for, handling, and training the canines.

Rebecca graduated from Central Michigan University with her Undergraduate Degree in Child Development and Psychology and earned her Master’s Degree in Counseling. After receiving her Master’s degree she moved to Grand Rapids and worked at the Kent County Children’s Advocacy Center for 15 years.

After moving to Northern Michigan, Rebecca founded the Northern Michigan Children’s Assessment Center with the help and support of community members in 2014.   The NMCAC currently provides forensic interviews, advocacy, mental health services and medical services for children, as well as sexual assault nurse examination for all ages.  The NMCAC provides these services to Crawford, Iosco, Ogemaw, Oscoda, Otsego and Roscommon Counties.  The main office is located in Roscommon County and a satellite office in Tawas, MI